Liberty Tax Service Expands on the Big IslandMarch 9, 2012, 1:27 PM HST (Updated March 9, 2012, 1:32 PM)
While the Big Island emerges from the worst recession in decades, Constance Rojcewicz isn’t waiting on a recovery to expand her business.
The owner of Liberty Tax Service in Hilo since 2003, Rojcewicz opened locations in Pahoa and Waimea in January, anticipating an increasing need for tax preparation as populations in those areas grow.
“Many of our customers live near Pahoa now, and we decided to just go to them”, said Rojcewicz.
Citing the improvements in infrastructure and increasing variety of shopping options, Rojcewicz predicts that Pahoa area residents will increasingly opt out of making frequent trips to Hilo. She anticipates the demand for professional services will surge, and notes of her new location, “We were busy there from the moment we opened”.
Waimea was a bigger gamble according to Rojcewicz, who paid $40,000 for exclusive rights to open locations in Hamakua, Kohala, and Waikoloa.
She anticipates a challenging first year, working to establish a customer base in a small town with an existing H&R Block office. Rojcewicz is no stranger to her competition however, having owned five H&R Block locations in New York before selling them and moving to Hilo in search of warmer weather.
“H&R Block started doing financial planning and things like selling mortgages. I really didn’t like that, and it played a big role in my decision to switch to Liberty Tax Service,” said Rojcewicz, who opened the first franchise in Hawaii in 2003.
Nine years later, there are over 17 Liberty Tax Service offices in the state. Rojcewicz is enthusiastic about the brand, noting that Liberty Tax Service appeared this year on Forbes magazine’s list of “Top 20 franchises for the buck.”
To get the word out about her about her new locations, Rojcewicz relies heavily on son Leo Brayman, who recently joined her company. Brayman builds relationships with businesses, often leaving fliers in break rooms and providing coupons for employees. Because outdoor signage laws are strict on Hawaii Island, Rojcewicz and Brayman concentrate on direct mail, and provide small gifts to potential customers.
“The gifts really work,” says Rojcewicz, “We’ll often hear from people a year later, because they remember that little memory we created.”
Rojcewicz employs three full time workers and up to 20 part time staff to prepare taxes in what she describes as a highly seasonal business.
“Statistically, 25% of the population files in the first week of February. By February 15th, we’ve done half of our business for the year”, says Rojcewicz, estimating that her staff will prepare around 1000 tax returns in 2012.
As a helpful service and to build good will, Rojcewicz provides free federal and state returns for 1040EZ filers. “We’re one of the few that do both state and federal”, she says.
Rojcewicz’s Hilo office stays open year round, and after the filing deadline she often finds herself correcting errors people made while doing their own taxes, noting, “They get confused about who qualifies as a dependent. You need to be clear on that, and you need to have documentation of everything, including social security numbers and proof of any income or deductions.”
When asked whether she is contemplating an expansion to West Hawaii, Rojcewicz expressed a positive view of the area, noting that Kailua-Kona fit the Liberty Tax Service model of approximately 25,000 people per one location. But regarding her own plans, Rojcewicz stated, “I’m just too busy right now to open up out there, with the east and north sides of the island going. But I’d love to see someone pick up that franchise.”
Liberty Tax Service locations:
- Hilo Shopping Center: 68 Kekuanaoa St., Ste. 350 Hilo 96720, 934-7475. Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
- Waimea Center: 65-1158 Mamalahoa Hwy., Ste. 23A Kamuela, 881-8800. Monday-Friday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
- Malama Market Plaza: 15-2660 Pahoa Village Rd., Ste.202 Pahoa, 965-1234. Monday-Friday 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m.-5 p.m.